Rep. DeFazio releases transportation, infrastructure budget, calling next round of COVID-19 relief “critical”

© Shutterstock

U.S. Rep Peter DeFazio (D-OR), chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, said Tuesday that President Biden’s American Rescue Plan contains nearly $10 billion in aid for transportation and infrastructure.

“For the past year, as the U.S. has struggled to contain the spread of COVID-19, millions of transportation workers have been indispensable to not only keeping our transportation systems operable but also to ensuring supplies, from everyday items to life-saving vaccines, reach their destination,” DeFazio said. “Our transportation systems—and the men and women who keep them running—will be equally essential to our long-term economic recovery when we finally turn the corner on COVID-19.”

Part of a $1.9 trillion package to provide relief from the COVID-19 pandemic, the money for transportation and infrastructure is needed, he said, to help the American people, including transportation workers whose jobs are at risk due to the ongoing economic downturn and the steep decline in ridership across all transportation modes.

“This plan can make a real difference in people’s lives. Amtrak will be able to recall workers and restore long-distance service. Small-and minority-owned businesses will be able to keep the lights on at airports around the country,” DeFazio continued. “Tens of thousands of airline workers won’t fear losing their paycheck and benefits in a matter of weeks. Buses and trains can keep running, and operators will be protected with PPE… While our work is far from over, this plan takes another critical step toward preventing essential systems from collapsing under the weight of the pandemic and will help to keep millions of Americans out of unemployment lines.”

The Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure held its first hearing on COVID-19’s impact on transportation workers last week.

Included in the FY21 budget reconciliation bill is $30 billion for transit to help with operating costs like payroll and personal protective equipment; $8 billion for airports, including $800 million for airport concessionaires; $3 billion for a temporary payroll support program to retain or rehire aerospace manufacturing workers, and $1.5 billion for Amtrak, to be used to recall and pay furloughed employees and to restore daily long-distance service.

DeFazio also said he strongly supports the extension of the Payroll Support Program for aviation workers, a program he has supported since the onset of the pandemic.